Does it seem that there are simply too many things to think about these days? It’s overwhelming, to say the least. And many in your worshiping congregation may seem overwhelmed. It just might be time for a reset. The Rev. Junius Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries, has written Soul Reset, a book about finding space to breathe, about reorienting one’s life with gospel priorities. It might be a good resource for planning the service this week, which is a week of getting our thinking straight.
Paul writes in the fourth chapter of Philippians about reorienting the mind.
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Worship can be an opportunity to consider again what it is that is worth occupying our minds. Our world is full of all kinds of demands on our mental space, much of which is not really for our benefit or a way to enhance our faith or our discipleship.
This a perfect time to take your time as you worship. Spend some time on the words of the songs that you use in worship. Let the meanings sink in a little bit, listen to the images of God and of the church that are presented in the music. Take the prayers apart and look at the components; consider what you are actually praying for as you recite the Lord’s Prayer, for example. What are all these petitions? Why are the requests put in this order; what is the true hope of the prayer? How radical is this thing that we’ve said so many times before that we aren’t really listening anymore? Think on these things.
This is a week to send folks away from the worship experience, whether in person or online, with an assignment. Give people something to read, something to consider, something to pray about. Challenge worshipers to use their brains this week. The church is needed for that transformation of the world thing we’ve been talking about. We need to be pressing on toward something new and true and honorable and just and . . . Well, you get the picture.
Don’t make it too easy or too disconnected from life. Raise some current, pertinent issues, and invite folks to fill their minds with the honorable response, not the knee-jerk or polarized one. Of course, it will be important to follow up with monitored conversations to bring the wisdom of the community in the light of the gospel to bear. This is one (of many) occasion where worship shouldn’t end with the benediction but should continue into the parking lot or chat rooms, into the Zoom Sunday school, and the virtual youth group meeting.
Remember, we’re pressing on, on toward the kin-dom of God. (In case you aren’t familiar with the term “kin-dom,” here is a definition we used in a forthcoming work from Discipleship Ministries titled: Forming Disciples in Worship:
The term kin-dom is used here to replace the pervasive male-oriented, imperialistic word “kingdom,” especially in the liturgical context. Some theologians feel that “kin-dom” more fittingly reflects the kind of world Christ envisions. It refers to the family or relational aspect of God’s re-creation of the world, even as it recognizes the authority of the God we know in Jesus. Obviously, the roots of masculine language in scripture is derived from the political atmosphere of ancient empires. Both feminist and womanist studies have been intentional about the use of expansive language in liturgy.)
Whatever word or metaphor you use to describe the vision of God for all creation, the undeniable fact is that we aren’t there yet. But we’re pressing on. Not that the establishment of the kin-dom is within our power, yet we are called to act as if it were. We are called to build the kin-dom, starting with our own community, our own lives, as we press on to where God has called us. This week, we acknowledge that this pressing on won’t happen without changing our minds, without thinking on these things!
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.